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The King of Clubs: A Hercule Poirot Short Story Agatha Christie A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.Hercule Poirot is asked by Prince Paul of Maurania to solve the murder of Henry Reedburn, which has greatly distressed the Prince’s fiancée, the famous dancer Valerie Saintclair. The only other witnesses seem to be a family of four who were playing bridge near an open window when she staggered in, crying ‘Murder!’ THE KING OF CLUBS A Short Story by Agatha Christie Copyright This short story is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental. Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk) ‘The King of Clubs’ was first published as ‘The Adventure of the King of Clubs’ in The Sketch, 21 March 1923. This ePub edition published April 2012. Copyright © 2012 Agatha Christie Ltd. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books. EPub Edition © 2012 ISBN: 9780007486533 Version: 2017-04-18 Contents Cover (#ud375ea31-9daf-55c3-8f85-eef4f68deca0) Title Page (#u1ef45f2e-bbbb-5cfe-b048-fdd3baf92bb2) Copyright The King of Clubs About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo) The King of Clubs ‘The King of Clubs’ was first published as ‘The Adventure of the King of Clubs’ in The Sketch, 21 March 1923. ‘Truth,’ I observed, laying aside the Daily Newsmonger, ‘is stranger than fiction!’ The remark was not, perhaps, an original one. It appeared to incense my friend. Tilting his egg-shaped head on one side, the little man carefully flicked an imaginary fleck of dust from his carefully creased trousers, and observed: ‘How profound! What a thinker is my friend Hastings!’ Without displaying any annoyance at this quite uncalled-for gibe, I tapped the sheet I had laid aside. ‘You’ve read this morning’s paper?’ ‘I have. And after reading it, I folded it anew symmetrically. I did not cast it on the floor as you have done, with your so lamentable absence of order and method.’ (That is the worst of Poirot. Order and Method are his gods. He goes so far as to attribute all his success to them.) ‘Then you saw the account of the murder of Henry Reedburn, the impresario? It was that which prompted my remark. Not only is truth stranger than fiction – it is more dramatic. Think of that solid middle-class English family, the Oglanders. Father and mother, son and daughter, typical of thousands of families all over this country. The men of the family go to the city every day; the women look after the house. Their lives are perfectly peaceful, and utterly monotonous. Last night they were sitting in their neat suburban drawing-room at Daisymead, Streatham, playing bridge. Suddenly, without any warning, the french window bursts open, and a woman staggers into the room. Her grey satin frock is marked with a crimson stain. She utters one word, “Murder!” before she sinks to the ground insensible. It is possible that they recognize her from her pictures as Valerie Saintclair, the famous dancer who has lately taken London by storm!’ ‘Is this your eloquence, or that of the Daily Newsmonger?’ inquired Poirot. ‘The Daily Newsmonger was in a hurry to go to press, and contented itself with bare facts. But the dramatic possibilities of the story struck me at once.’ Poirot nodded thoughtfully. ‘Wherever there is human nature, there is drama. But – it is not always just where you think it is. Remember that. Still, I too am interested in the case, since it is likely that I shall be connected with it.’ ‘Indeed?’ ‘Yes. A gentleman rang me up this morning, and made an appointment with me on behalf of Prince Paul of Maurania.’ ‘But what has that to do with it?’ ‘You do not read your pretty little English scandal-papers. The ones with the funny stories, and “a little mouse has heard –” or “a little bird would like to know –” See here.’ I followed his short stubby finger along the paragraph: ‘– whether the foreign prince and the famous dancer are really affinities! And if the lady likes her new diamond ring!’ ‘And now to resume your so dramatic narrative,’ said Poirot. ‘Mademoiselle Saintclair had just fainted on the drawing-room carpet at Daisymead, you remember.’ I shrugged. ‘As a result of Mademoiselle’s first murmured words when she came round, the two male Oglanders stepped out, one to fetch a doctor to attend to the lady, who was evidently suffering terribly from shock, and the other to the police-station – whence after telling his story, he accompanied the police to Mon Désir, Mr Reedburn’s magnificent villa, which is situated at no great distance from Daisymead. There they found the great man, who by the way suffers from a somewhat unsavoury reputation, lying in the library with the back of his head cracked open like an eggshell.’ ‘I have cramped your style,’ said Poirot kindly. ‘Forgive me, I pray … Ah, here is M. le Prince!’ Our distinguished visitor was announced under the title of Count Feodor. He was a strange-looking youth, tall, eager, with a weak chin, the famous Mauranberg mouth, and the dark fiery eyes of a fanatic. ‘M. Poirot?’ My friend bowed. ‘Monsieur, I am in terrible trouble, greater than I can well express –’ Poirot waved his hand. ‘I comprehend your anxiety. Mademoiselle Saintclair is a very dear friend, is it not so?’ The prince replied simply: ‘I hope to make her my wife.’ Poirot sat up in his chair, and his eyes opened. The prince continued: ‘I should not be the first of my family to make a morganatic marriage. My brother Alexander has also defied the Emperor. We are living now in more enlightened days, free from the old caste-prejudice. Besides, Mademoiselle Saintclair, in actual fact, is quite my equal in rank. You have heard hints as to her history?’ ‘There are many romantic stories of her origin – not an uncommon thing with famous dancers. I have heard that she is the daughter of an Irish charwoman, also the story which makes her mother a Russian grand duchess.’ ‘The first story is, of course, nonsense,’ said the young man. ‘But the second is true. Valerie, though bound to secrecy, has let me guess as much. Besides, she proves it unconsciously in a thousand ways. I believe in heredity, M. Poirot.’ ‘I too believe in heredity,’ said Poirot thoughtfully. ‘I have seen some strange things in connection with it – moi qui vous parle … But to business, M. le Prince. What do you want of me? What do you fear? I may speak freely, may I not? Is there anything to connect Mademoiselle Saintclair with the crime? She knew Reedburn of course?’ ‘Yes. He professed to be in love with her.’ ‘And she?’ ‘She would have nothing to say to him.’ Poirot looked at him keenly. ‘Had she any reason to fear him?’ The young man hesitated. ‘There was an incident. You know Zara, the clairvoyant?’ ‘No.’ ‘She is wonderful. You should consult her some time. Valerie and I went to see her last week. She read the cards for us. She spoke to Valerie of trouble – of gathering clouds; then she turned up the last card – the covering card, they call it. It was the king of clubs. She said to Valerie: “Beware. There is a man who holds you in his power. You fear him – you are in great danger through him. You know whom I mean?” Valerie was white to the lips. She nodded and said: “Yes, yes, I know.” Shortly afterwards we left. Zara’s last words to Valerie were: “Beware of the king of clubs. Danger threatens you!” I questioned Valerie. She would tell me nothing – assured me that all was well. But now, after last night, I am more sure than ever that in the king of clubs Valerie saw Reedburn, and that he was the man she feared.’ Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/agata-kristi/the-king-of-clubs-a-hercule-poirot-short-story/?lfrom=334617187) на ЛитРес. Безопасно оплатить книгу можно банковской картой Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, со счета мобильного телефона, с платежного терминала, в салоне МТС или Связной, через PayPal, WebMoney, Яндекс.Деньги, QIWI Кошелек, бонусными картами или другим удобным Вам способом.
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